Saturday, June 9, 2012

Saturday Review: Cayetano’s BRT Plan Targeted As Opponents Launch Summertime Examination, Plus: Wrapping Up This Week’s Rail Radio Debate

To Rail or Not to Rail – that's the question, and Oahu residents will hear it incessantly for the next two months.
The two pro-rail mayoral candidates – Mayor Peter Carlisle and former Managing Director Kirk Caldwell – took the gloves off this week and began punching away at anti-rail Ben Cayetano’s bus rapid transit plan.
Mr. Cayetano has been slow to reveal details of his BRT scheme, but he finally included a few tidbits in his Sunday Star-Advertiser commentary – just enough to activate his two opponents. Their one-two Thursday punch forced Mr. Cayetano into a corner for the first time this campaign season, and that’s likely to be repeated in the weeks leading up to the August 11 primary election.
To be sure, onlookers won’t be lacking for between-round entertainment. Civil Beat today has an item about KHON2’s unscientific on-line poll that asks readers which transit plan they favor and the Cayetano campaign website’s advice to supporters that they “clear your ‘cookies’ from your internet settings and vote a few times.” That dubious tactic may be working; as of this Yes2Rail posting, support for Mr Carlisle's pro-rail plan has slipped from 50% to 46.5%. Mr. Caldwell's approach to building rail is at 35.3%, and Mr. Cayetano's no-rail plan is sitting at a remarkably low 17.0%!
Radio Redux
Our first deconstruction of anti-rail UH Professor Randy Roth’s comments on a morning talk show this week said we’d get around to pro-rail attorney Bill Meheula’s comments on another day, and today’s the day.
Mr. Meheula is representing an intervener in the anti-rail federal lawsuit, and he summarized his client’s views on rail during the radio program.
Mr. Meheula: …the people that live out in West Oahu are suffering a lot from really bad traffic. And there are a lot of people there. You’re talking about 60-plus percent of the people on Oahu live within this corridor and suffer from this traffic.
In addition to that, 70 percent of the growth in the next 20 years is gonna be out on the west side, most in Kapolei and central Oahu. A large percentage of these people are middle or lower income minority groups, and they’re wasting a lot of time on the road – time that kids could use studying, exercising, parenting….  It’s unfair to allow them to continue to suffer like this. I live in east Oahu..., and we don’t suffer like that.
My second point is that we need a non-car and a non-bus solution, and why is that? If you have enhanced buses or you have (high-occupancy vehicle lanes), even then, the same arterials are leading to them, either H-1 or H-3…, and when they come to town on the same arterials, it’s not really gonna improve traffic….
In addition to that you have a real practical problem in that the surtax approved by the Legislature (to fund rail construction) that does not allow use of those funds to improve highways or improve the current bus transit system. So you don’t have a means to pay for (enhanced buses), and another thing is (to combat urban sprawl). That’s one of the beauties of the rail project – allowing development in Kakaako and along the rail, as opposed to continuing to take good country agricultural land for more urban sprawl.
And then my last point is a practical one: If this project fails, it’s not likely that Senator Inouye will be able to get this kind of money again. We have two reasons. We have an election coming up, and if the Senate goes Republican, he’s no longer going to be chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he’ll no longer be on the Transportation Committee, and if (rail) stalls, even if the Senate stays Democrat, how long do you think it’s gonna take for the FTA to authorize a project like this….?
Scare Tactics
We can’t let the week end without taking note again of Professor Roth’s comments as we did Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Today we examine his rather bizarre notion that at-grade buses are safer than elevated rail.
Professor Roth: During rush hour on the trains, if they’re full as supporters say they will be, 80 percent will be standing. It’s not as comfortable as buses. It’s not as fast as buses. It’s not as safe as buses.  On the trains, there’s no driver. You get on. Hopefully there’s not gonna be somebody there who’s threatening or is obnoxious or what have you. It doesn’t happen often, but with a bus, you’ve got a trained person there to deal with a situation like that. For a lot of different reasons, you just don’t need the train. On this bus rapid transit thing and managed lanes, as I mentioned, 30 different cities.
We think it’s also bizarre when a law school professor resorts to scare tactics to support his notion that buses are safer than an elevated rail system, as Honolulu’s will be.
The photographs in our right-hand column are evidence of at-grade transit’s vulnerability to crashes. The top photo shows what happened when a Honolulu bus narrowly missed pedestrians near Kawaiahao Church and smashed into a rock wall. The photograph at right shows the aftermath of driver error in Houston, and as recently as February 2012, a 66-year-old man was killed when run over by a bus in Honolulu. Buses are safer than trains? Please, Professor Roth. Your first-year law students wouldn’t let that argument slide by in one of your lectures.
And about those 30 different cities on the mainland that you say have implemented managed lanes: Most of those cities built rail systems long ago, and their users wouldn’t dream of getting along without them even though they sometimes have to stand up during part of their commute, heaven forbid!
We’re in for one interesting summer.

1 comment:

Roy Kamisato said...

As I understand it the trains will have no drivers but will have trained attendants on board. To the point of at grade mass transit. Every single one of them will be removing existing car lanes in downtown Honolulu which automatically increases traffic congestion. The alternative of course is to knock down buildings for blocks to make room for at-grade-mass transit. This however still does not lessen the threat of being run over by an at-grade bus for train.